Sri Lanka Leave It Late To Make History
Sri Lanka 257 & 457 (Mathews 160) beat
England 365 & 249 (Moeen Ali 108no) by 100 runs
Second Test, Headingley
Sri Lanka left it until the penultimate ball of the day to see off staunch English resistance to win the second and final Test at Headingley by 100 runs and claim the series 1-0 - their first full series win in England.
Moeen Ali saw off 281 balls to hit his maiden Test century but he was unbeaten on 108, stranded at the other end when Shaminda Eranga delivered the perfect bouncer to James Anderson, who was caught by Rangana Herath, one of a number of Sri Lankans fielding close to the bat.
Prior to that, the Lancashire man had successfully seen off 54 balls, without scoring a run - they were irrelevant for the home side - as it looked as if England would become the first team to save a Test having begun the final day with only five wickets remaining.
But it wasn't to be them making history as Dhammika Prasad completed his five-wicket haul, Herath returned three for 59, and Sri Lanka finished off the job with time almost up.
Just as at Lord's, the game went right down to the wire, but Sri Lanka succeeded where England had failed in the opening Test by taking the final wicket.
England were eventually dismissed for 249, having been set 350 to win.
England always faced an extraordinary challenge to avoid defeat, right from the start, but they were relatively untroubled early on and by the time lunch was taken early due to some rain, they had seen off the morning session without losing a wicket.
Joe Root made 31 in 108 balls as he and Moeen took England from 57 for five to 124 for six, Sri Lanka getting the breakthrough when Root edged Nuwan Pradeep into the gully where Lahiru Thirimanne held on.
Next to join Moeen, who was looking more and more assured, as if he was playing his 102nd Test rather than just his second, was Matt Prior.
He made 10 in 37 balls before he was sharply caught by Kaushal Silva at short leg as Prasad reached his five-wicket haul with a well-directed bouncer - not the first of the day, or the last, by any means.
It can't have been far away from being overturned, however, as Prasad benfited from a little doubt when the decision on whether it was a no ball was referred upstairs.
With Moeen the only recognised batsman left, Sri Lanka might have thought England were there for the taking, but their resistance got stronger as the day went on with Chris Jordan (21 in 62 balls) and Stuart Broad (0 in 24 balls) playing their part.
Moeen, though, played an innings of exceptional class. If he was nervous as the game went down to the wire, he didn't show it, reining himself in to put the needs of the team first.
Saving the game first, then thinking about reaching personal milestones, was clearly in his mind. He kept his head, defending, leaving and taking no easy runs when they were offered as he made batting on a wearing pitch against a confident and fired up Sri Lankan attack look easy.
Jordan was trapped in front by Herath and you could not blame him for reviewing the decision - unsuccessfully - as England at that point still had two reviews remaining.
Broad hung around, and when he was also rapped on the pad by Herath and given out by the excellent Steve Davis, he chose not to review, and wisely so.
Not only would it also have been futile, it left England's final wicket pair of Moeen and Anderson with a review, should they need it.
They wouldn't as it turned out but Sri Lanka wasted theirs early in Anderson's innings as he looked to pad away Herath outside off stump and then block anything else.
After Moeen clipped the ball off his thigh to reach three figures, the tension continued to mount well into the final hour.
Mathews made 11 bowling changes in the final hour as he searched for the combnation that would most unsettle England but the two left-handers at the crease stood firm, no matter how many close fielders were brought in, and no matter how well the Sri Lankans bowled.
Mathews' final throw of the dice was Eranga and after Anderson took strike at the start of the final over, the tactic was to bowl short and bounce him out.
For four balls, Anderson ducked, weaved and blocked. Then from the fifth, rising quickly towards his throat, he turned away, the ball struck his bat and lobbed up to Herath, who made no mistake.
Small wonder that it was a tearful Anderson who accepted an award for being named England's man of the series afterwards.
This one hurt for England - perhaps almost as much as it brought joy and elation to Sri Lanka.
© Cricket World 2014